Monday, June 28, 2010

Brought to Me by Irish Spring

This is the first time I have seen this lily blossom in many years. I couldn't even remember what color it was! Every year, every single year since soon after I put it in ten or so years ago, it has come up like gangbusters, developed two or three hearty stalks, budded, and then--before I even really get my mind around it--the buds disappear, thanks to my friends the deer.

The same thing has happened to tomatoes. Last year, I grew a lovely tomato plant in a pot--just enough cherry tomatoes for me. Not. Every single tomato--EVERY SINGLE ONE!--was eaten before it began to ripen. I am not entirely stupid: I checked into getting some netting to protect it. Turned out the netting would cost far more than the sum total of the tomatoes would have cost me at the local markets, so I decided to be stoic. But I digress.

This year, determined to see the lily blossom, I decided to try the frequently-recommended remedy of Irish Spring soap. What you can't see in the picture is the entire cake of soap impaled on a green bamboo stake, right beside the lily plant, at the same height as the buds and blossoms. Fabulous! It works. Deer smart--woman smarter. Sorta.

I hadn't seen too much of the deer lately. I was imagining them saying to each other, Keep out of that place--it STINKS! But here they were this morning, and it was hard to think any bad thoughts at all about them, the pretty little things.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Good Enough

I care quite a bit about what I see in the mirror. When I get dressed up for some event for which my appearance seems to matter, I really like to look nice. But I was never a looker, and now I'm getting old. Many's the time that I have looked at myself in the mirror and said to myself, "Well, I look nice-ish." That's usually good enough.

Today I want to celebrate "nice-ish," "goodish," and "good enough." They can get us through the day, and they can help us let go of some of what holds us back.

The psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott coined a wonderful term: the "good enough mother." He was convinced that children didn't need perfection in a parent but did absolutely need a mother who would both supply the child's needs for closeness and bonding and allow space between mother and child, a space he labeled "potential space." This is, he maintains, the space where the child can create through play--the space which in later years will become the space of creativity in other kinds of play (the arts, work, etc.). It is a lovely theory, and a comforting one. (It seems true enough.) Good mothers are so anxious about being "good mothers"! To know that "good enough" is really good enough is a great comfort: armed with that idea, a mother can relax and both allow the child to play and play herself.

In the late eighties I read in Tracy Kidder's more-than-goodish book House a comment made by one of the builders (he was somebody I went to high school with, delightfully enough, but that is not relevant to the current topic). When the builders encountered a glitch and found a way around it that didn't quite satisfy their zeal for perfection, it would be "good enough for Amherst" (the house was being built in Amherst, Mass.). My husband and I grabbed onto that "good enough for _______" expression. We would be making the bed, for example, and something would be a little skew-gee. My husband would say "Good enough for Buff" (meaning Buffalo), and we'd leave it at that. It always made us smile a little.

"Good enough for _____" is, in my mind at least, particularly resonant in Buffalo, a city with a large self-deprecating streak and a history of disappointment. A local artist, Michael Margolis, designed a T-shirt with the motto "Buffalo: City of No Illusions."
One could argue that it is a pretty negative motto. But we in the Buffalo area love it; it's just right. And really, it's something another city could emulate. It suggests that it's good not to have illusions. It suggests that "good enough" is good enough, that "goodish" is better than nothing, that a sheepish semi-success is better than failure, that half a loaf really is better than none. Most of our lives are half-loaf affairs; many of us can do little better than to look nice-ish. But why not celebrate the no-illusions attitude that sees "good enough" as really good enough?

All Those Hand-Me-Ups

It's time for a few words of praise for my wonderful daughters. We are all familiar with the concept of the hand-me-down, usually the outgrown clothes that a person gives to a younger person. As a child I didn't have many sources of hand-me-downs: I was an only child, and I had only one older child family member, a cousin who was 2-1/2 years older. I don't recall wearing her clothes, though I must have.

But now that they are grown up, my kids have been a rich source of such endowments! I cannot begin to enumerate the shoes and articles of clothing that have ended up in my closet because they were too big, too small (shoes, never clothes!), too far out of style, too something. Some of my all-time favorite things to wear have come to me that way.

Still, the best hand-me-ups have been intangible, and unlike the tangible ones, they can be both given away and kept. B., my elder daughter, pictured above in her kitchen making bread, has provided me with ideas for craft projects, expertise in breadmaking, courage to try foods I have ignored or avoided for six decades, a vision of sustainability, and--most important of all--the inspiration of a compassionate analytical mind guided by a remarkable ability to see what is important and right in human relations (what my late husband called a "good gut"), which operates both in her work and in her role as a mother of two little ones. A., my younger daughter, has taught me a great deal about fine arts and design, guided my reading and music choices, clued me in on style, challenged me to work on physical fitness, and helped me up to keep up to date with technology (more or less). More profoundly, she has inspired me with her steadfast courage to wing out on her own, despite shyness and doubts; her ability to rise to occasions even when they are difficult; and her self-knowledge and her unwillingness to betray her own identity.

I hope I am still able to grow--though I would prefer that it not be in girth! But I will never outgrow the intangible hand-me-ups of knowledge and inspiration that I have received from my lovely smart daughters.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Garden Is...Well, Some of It Is Okay

This is the amazing clematis that nature produced after I put the plant in the ground last year. I am very proud to have such a pretty thing facing my next-door neighbor, who knows full well what a triumph it is for a struggling and failing gardener. On the ground--well, there sure are a lot of weeds, and those two cubic yards of mulch didn't quite go the distance.

For several weeks I worked furiously in anticipation of a family luncheon. Since it came to pass, with some warts (metaphorically speaking) still showing, it has been harder to get out there just for the sake of the house, or Beauty. The weeds are alive and well, and here I am writing a blog while they inch up to take over the world.

Better rethink that strategy, I guess. Up and at 'em, woman!

A New Bee in My Bonnet!

I've been working on My First Commercial Knitting Pattern, which represents, I guess, my business plan for my retirement (not really). I am inordinately proud of this accomplishment-in-the-making! I finished the garment yesterday and photographed it. There's a lot more work to do, since I intend to adapt the pattern to larger sizes in different yarns. But last night I got the itch to begin to write it up, and that felt really good! I forgot to eat dinner.